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BYU football keeping quarterback decision secret heading into Wisconsin showdown

By Jared Lloyd daily Herald - | Sep 14, 2017
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Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Tanner Mangum (12) throws a shovel pass during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU quarterback Beau Hoge (7) takes the ball up the field during a Brigham Young Cougars scrimmage Thursday, August 10, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) is taken down by BYU defensive back Chris Wilcox (32) during a game on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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BYU head coach Kalani Sitake yells at referees after a call he disagreed with during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars place kicker Rhett Almond (26) kicks a field goal while holder Gavin Fowler (16) holds the ball during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Utah Utes defensive back Jaylon Johnson (7) breaks up a pass intended for Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15) during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Utah Utes running back Troy McCormick Jr. (4) is taken down by Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Tanner Jacobson (25) during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Fred Warner (4) makes a tackle during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15) is tackled after making a catch during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars tight end Matt Bushman (89) makes a catch and is tackled during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Meghan McKenna holds her hands over her head in frustration after a play during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Matt and Jenny Jensen, of Salt Lake City, watch as the Cougars make a successful play during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Dusty Barlow cheers for the Utes as Brandon Scott looks on in frustration during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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A purple Y lights the hillside on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, during halftime of the BYU/Utah football game in Provo. The Y represented Brigham Young University and University of Utah students coming together to raise awareness for climate change.

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A purple Y lights the hillside on Saturday Sept. 9, 2017, during halftime of the BYU/Utah football game in Provo. The Y represented Brigham Young University and University of Utah students coming together to raise awareness for climate change.

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BYU fans react to mistakes made by the team during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Tanner Mangum (12) reacts after his helmet is knocked off during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars players pray in the end zone during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Talon Shumway (21) makes a catch during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Talon Shumway (21) makes a catch during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars running back Kavika Fonua (44) flips upside down while taking the all up the field during a BYU home football game against rival University of Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU football student fans get ready to enter LaVell Edwards Stadium before the Utah game on Sept. 9, 2017: Aaron Evett, a grad student from Fallon, Nev., Madelyn Turner, a senior from Tulsa, Okla., Blake Turner, a sophomore from Tulsa, Okla., Colby Christensen, a junior from Sandy, Landon Smith, a junior from Beaver. and BreAnn Deuce, a sophomore from Hamilton, Mont.

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BYU fans greet the football team during the Cougar Walk before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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BYU fans gather before the Cougar Walk during pregame festivities before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Michael Shelton (18) greets fans during the Cougar Walk before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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BYU students rush towards their seats during pregame festivities before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake greets fans during the Cougar Walk before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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BYU fans greet the football team during the Cougar Walk before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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BYU students wait in line to enter the stadium during pregame festivities before BYU takes on Utah on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15) can't reel in a pass by quarterback Tanner Mangum (12) during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Brigham Young Cougars tight end Matt Bushman (89) pulls in a pass during a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

When asked who would start at quarterback for the BYU football team on Saturday against No. 10 Wisconsin, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer gave an answer no one expected.

“JJ Nwigwe,” Detmer said, pausing only for a moment before grinning at the joke.

It doesn’t appear likely that the 6-foot-5, 275-pound offensive lineman/tight end will be the one taking the snaps, particularly since Detmer’s response to being asked how well Nwigwe throws the ball was, “he doesn’t.”

Who will actually be at quarterback for the Cougars appears to be either still to be determined or at the very least a closely guarded secret.

“I can’t anything about it right now,” Detmer said. “We don’t talk about injuries and repetitions and all those things. We’ll see what happens come Saturday.”

Detmer wouldn’t comment on whether junior quarterback Tanner Mangum — the starter for the first three games and a team captain — had practiced or not.

Mangum came off the field hobbling after the final play in the 19-13 loss to Utah on Saturday. The backup quarterback on the depth chart is sophomore Beau Hoge, who has a different skillset.

“We’ve said all along that we will cater to what guys do best at every position,” Detmer said. “We’ve tweaked every game and tried to play to what the quarterback feels comfortable with. It’s a constant learning and motion.”

But he emphasized that he doesn’t expect major changes to the Cougar offensive schemes, since they are the same ones Hoge has been practicing for the past two years.

“All of the guys on our team have been practicing it during training camp,” Detmer said. “You don’t just go and change everything, and try to invent a new offense in a week.”

The Cougar offense has yet to get on track and it is on Detmer to figure it out.

“Obviously we are not scoring enough points so we are not doing a lot well right now,” Detmer said. “We need to sharpen up on the little things. We have guys in situations that are seeing things for the first time and each week it is something new, something different.”

One of the areas that BYU has been particularly lacking is in making big plays.

“That was the focus in the offseason that we need more chunk plays, need to create more opportunities,” Detmer said. “The defense sometimes take things away or it’s there and we miss it. You get your chance and we’ve got to hit them.”

He explained that he’s worked with the quarterbacks to try to make sure they understand when to go for the big play and when not to.

“The constant battle in your head is how conservative do you play,” Detmer said. “We want them taking the shots, feeling comfortable that it is OK. We are calling that play for a reason. Give it a chance and then check it down if it just isn’t there.”

He said the lack of success has worn on him personally.

“You sit and think constantly about what can we do better, how can we help these guys, how can we be better as coaches and what can we do differently to help them catch up quickly,” Detmer said. “There is no down time to get away. All the coaches take it hard. We are here early and staying up late, trying to get solutions.”

But he also knows that some of the limited success of the BYU offense should be credited to the talent and skill of the opposing defenses.

“It’s a balance,” Detmer said. “We’re playing good defenses, teams that can play. We haven’t played to our standard yet, though. We see things on film and we are leaving a lot of plays out there where guys are open or we drop a ball or miss a protection. We had all those instances happen last week and if we just had hit one, it’s a different ball game.”

Detmer knows that it will a big challenge to play better against the talented Badger defense on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC).

“They have speed on the edges and want to get after the quarterback, then plug up the middle with their interior guys,” Detmer said. “They are a good solid team. They are ranked No. 10 for a reason.”

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